Editor’s Note: Thanks to Ed Rooney for A Very Special Guest Post about humor in the business world. Make sure you check out his podcast with Paul here, or just click play at the end of the post!
On the surface, humor and comedy seem interchangeable. Both are designed to be a mood lightener and in most cases, they are. However, there are subtle differences and, when using a mood lightener or ice breaker in the business world, can turn an intended positive interchange into an unrecoverable disaster.
Comedy is something we are all used to watching. It operates in the visual and audio realm both simultaneously and independent of each other. Comedy can use a variety of emotions to achieve a punch line. Tension, sadness, self loathing, perceived lack of knowledge and overconfidence are all used as tools to articulate a subject matter designed to entertain with laughter. Comedy is calculated when done correctly. It is an art form honed over time to the last syllable by the artists and storytellers that come to mind when Comedy is brought up. Carlin, Pryor, Cosby, Murphy, Rock, CK, Burr, just to name a few. Comedy is best used on a stage or written for the stage. Comedy very rarely goes over well in social situations and, when it is, is usually ripped off and delivered wrong. Launching into a Comedy routine and telling jokes while conducting business generally leads it a feeling of embarrassment for the business meeting “Comedian.” It can be pulled off, but at Powerball odds.
Humor, on the other hand, is formulated in real time. Most people have a sense of humor. A lot of people have the wrong sense. An 8 year old will think “Hiney” is the ultimate in humor and all 8 year olds within earshot of the word erupt in laughter. Its something that never really leaves ones sense of humor. The good “Sense” of humor comes from life experiences. Using humor in the right places with the right circumstances, I’ve found, to be extremely helpful in the business world. Hiney doesn’t work past a certain age, well, maybe it does as I’m smiling while typing this. Unlike Comedy, Humor is reactionary to present and surrounding conditions. There can’t be a scripted first time meeting of a potential client using humor, and comedy should never ever be used. When meeting with a person or people for the first time, if humor is going to be used, the ability to read a person, or the multiple person dynamic, has to be established immediately or sooner. Deals can be ruined straight out of the chute. Some people in business aren’t there to laugh, smile or even be personable. It’s just business, which isn’t a bad thing. Others are less guarded and more comfortable with a little humor interjected into a business exchange. The type of humor used has to be established as well, whether it’s dry, snarky, sarcastic, observational or even self bullying. The key to successfully using humor while conducting business is to know your job 100% front and back and everywhere in between. Accomplish that and you will have a clientele that is trusting of your abilities business wise while being relaxed and more prone to help you do a better job through increased social/business interchanges. I would advise against being the funny guy that doesn’t have all the answers for your client. You’re better off not making yourself a centralized personality in negotiations.
In short, Humor is an incredibly positive social tool that can give a wealth of success when used correctly. Knowledge and humor, in that order, enable the paths of communication to be less robotic and more open to a two way street of insight between you and your client.
For a glimpse at the Rooney & Paul Show click play below, or visit their website here!